Woman who faked leukemia in insurance fraud sentenced to 41 months in prison, ordered to pay back $500K
Inside a federal courtroom in Charleston, Jennifer Lynn Eden lifted her left sleeve, revealing a black-and-blue bruise on her arm, an apparent result of a rare blood disorder she now suffers from.
As a final plea for her freedom, Eden told the judge Wednesday she’s worried about her medical treatment if she goes to jail.
But it’s Eden’s fictitious claims about being diagnosed with terminal leukemia that led to her arrest in the first place.
“I’m terrified if I go to jail, I don’t get my (blood) testing I need weekly and that scares me because it needs to be tested weekly,” she said, choking back tears.
The 33-year-old ended up in this spot after she lied about dying from cancer to cash in on $500,000 in insurance money.
She really is sick now, with a blood disorder that causes mini-strokes and can impair mental functioning, according to a neuropsychologist’s testimony. But that wasn’t enough to keep her out of prison.
U.S. District Judge David Norton sentenced Eden to three years and five months behind bars for her tall tales and ordered her to pay back the money she defrauded from the insurance company.
Norton said the court sent a 3-inch-thick pile of Eden’s medical records to the Bureau of Prisons to make sure they could adequately care for her. The prison bureau assured the court it was up to the task. Therefore, he said, her punishment should reflect her crime.
“This was a long fraud,” Norton said. “It took a lot of work, a lot of intelligence, a lot of planning.”
Eden, who now lives in Myrtle Beach, pleaded guilty in September to mail fraud in connection with her scam that she carried out over the course of about eight years.
Prosecutors said she carried on her deceit from 2003 to 2011, obtaining life insurance policies for herself, then falsely claiming to be dying from leukemia. She would either apply for an early payment on her death benefits from the insurer or sell the policies to a broker, who resold them to investors in Asia. In all, her deceit netted her more than $1.4 million, authorities said.
“What kind of person claims to be terminally ill to get money?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart said. “We don’t put a lot of stock in what she says. She’s lied about her medical conditions in the past.”
DeHart called it a “shameless fraud” and said Eden repeatedly lied to the insurance company and even a judge on one occasion under oath, he said.
“She lied to a judge in another proceeding; lied to get what she wanted,” Norton said.
Eden’s sentencing had originally been scheduled for February but was postponed after a doctor testified about her current blood condition. Norton postponed the proceeding to make sure she could get proper treatment behind bars.
Eden’s attorney, James Irvin Jr., asked the judge to grant Eden probation based on her medical needs. “She needs to have good treatment.”
Throughout Wednesday’s hearing, Eden’s husband, William Grooms, whom she met on an online dating site in 2010, sat close behind her for support. Previously, he told the judge how Eden was under the power of an abusive boyfriend when she committed the fraud.
But DeHart maintains that Eden made a career out of lying, using the insurance money to live a lavish lifestyle that included driving a Jaguar. During her cancer fraud scheme, Eden pretended to be an oncologist at one point, he said.
Norton said he hopes the sentence will deter Eden from ever faking an ailment to benefit financially. She’ll remain free on bail until officials determine which prison she’ll be sent to. The process usually takes about 30 days.